published Sunday, May 22nd, 2011

Wish granted for cancer survivor


by Adam Crisp
Matthew Taylor, 9, gears up for a Nerf gun fight during his Make-A-Wish party Saturday at his house in Soddy-Daisy.
Staff photo by Jenna Walker/Chattanooga Times Free Press
Matthew Taylor, 9, gears up for a Nerf gun fight during his Make-A-Wish party Saturday at his house in Soddy-Daisy. Staff photo by Jenna Walker/Chattanooga Times Free Press
  • Matthew Taylor's Make-A-Wish gift
    Matthew Taylor, 9, gears up for a Nerf gun fight during his Make-A-Wish party Saturday at his house in Soddy-Daisy.

At 9 years old, Matthew Taylor has been through a lot, but his family hopes a big gift by the Make-A-Wish Foundation on Saturday signals a new start for the Soddy-Daisy youngster.

“This is a celebration for a new lease on life for Matthew,” said his dad, Tommy Taylor. “He’s getting to start back over into his normal life.”

Matthew was born with serious heart troubles that required treatment and a string of surgeries until 2003.

The family was devastated when doctors in 2009 discovered a large tumor on Matthew’s brain stem. They feared the tumor was the kind that sheds “cancer seeds” when disturbed, Tommy Taylor said.

But doctors at the Children’s Hospital at Erlanger decided the tumor wasn’t that type. And in April, doctors declared Matthew cancer free.

But all the treatments didn’t come without sacrifices. Matthew missed nearly an entire year of school, and his hearing likely is damaged permanently by the powerful cancer-fighting drugs.

In the last weeks of treatment, when Matthew was at his weakest, the family learned he would get one wish from the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Founded in 1980, the charitable national Make-A-Wish Foundation has become famous for granting very sick children one big wish. Since its founding, the group has given out 250,000 gifts.

“This was something he could really look forward to,” said Matthew’s mom, Leianne Taylor. “The last couple weeks of his treatment were extremely hard on him. He was deathly sick. The wish gave him the courage to keep going.”

On Saturday, the Taylors received a 50-inch high-definition television, an Xbox gaming system, two specialized gaming chairs with surround sound, video games and other toys.

The East Tennessee chapter of Make-A-Wish may grant as many as 60 wishes this year, said Kathryn Frank, a coordinator who worked with Taylor family.

Any child with a life-threatening medical condition is eligible for Make-A-Wish, Frank said.

“When we meet the kids, they are tired, they are really going through it, and the wish gives them something to look forward to, to be hopeful for.”

Matthew’s wish was funded by the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Throughout his treatment, video games played via the Internet were his only interaction with other children, his dad said, and Matthew loves playing with his two brothers and father, too.

“It’s really a family activity, and Matthew wanted us to be able to enjoy it together,” said Tommy Taylor, who is pastor at Falling Water Baptist Church. “But playing on a tiny screen is kind of hard for everyone, so Matthew wanted a big TV for all of us.”

Saturday’s Make-A-Wish reveal was unveiled after Matthew spent the morning at the movies with his mom. His whole family — brothers Jonathan and David and sister Lauren — was there.

“I love this!” Matthew yelled as he enjoyed an inaugural game of HALO with his family. “This new controller is great and the surround sound is awesome.”

about Adam Crisp...

Adam Crisp covers education issues for the Times Free Press. He joined the paper's staff in 2007 and initially covered crime, public safety, courts and general assignment topics. Prior to Chattanooga, Crisp was a crime reporter at the Savannah Morning News and has been a reporter and editor at community newspapers in southeast Georgia. In college, he led his student paper to a first-place general excellence award from the Georgia College Press Association. He earned ...

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